The famous Italian football club Parma’s rise to power and fall from grace has been equally spectacular, as well as heartbreaking for the historic club and its fan-base.
In 2015, the club was declared bankrupt with a total liability of €218 million (including unpaid wages of €63 million).
After a woeful Serie A campaign in 2020-21, when they finished bottom, Parma were relegated to Serie B and are currently languishing in mid-table obscurity.
However, they are a club that many Australian fans have a soft spot for, due to two of the Socceroos’ golden generation stars, Mark Bresciano and Vince Grella, playing there in the early 2000s.
The Australian connection with Parma looks set to continue, with Alessandro Circati now training with the first team and being selected in the squad for this week’s match against Socceroo Fran Karacic’s Brescia.
Circati is a product of Western Australia’s youth system and a player I have closely followed for several years. I’ll provide some of his scouting report in the next few paragraphs.
He is one of the best centre backs in the country, with top-tier stats for passing, defending and pace-adjusted interceptions.
The player is prone to unforced errors, but posesses great ability to become a top-tier centre back. Surprisingly he was never capped at national team juniors level.
• Top-level physical profile
• Good pace and acceleration
• Great ease in dribbling out from the back
• Very positive/attacking mindset
• Capable left foot
• Dominant aerial presence
• Strong in defensive duels when facing the attacker head on
• Weak in defensive transitions
• Sometimes loses track of an attacker while containing them
• Poor balance
• Possible emotional instability (consecutively making mistakes after the initial mistake)
Overall rating 7/10
Circati played for Perth Soccer Club as a junior before spending four years in Perth Glory’s academy. In his final season at the academy in 2020, Circati was voted the club’s best player.
The connection to Perth started with his father Gianfranco, who played for the Glory in the NSL in 1998 as well as finishing his playing days with Alessandro’s junior team, Perth Soccer Club.
Gianfranco had a great career in Italy, playing with multiple teams including Salernitana, Cagliari and Parma in Serie A.
His dad’s contacts in Europe opened up doors for trials. Italy surprisingly wasn’t the first destination though. It was England.
Leicester City were keen to sign the elegant centre back after impressing the club, however a combination of the pandemic and Brexit – affecting clubs signing overseas players – saw his dream move collapse.
After the disappointment in England, Circati followed in his father’s footsteps by successfully trialling at Parma and earning an academy contract.
Circati’s impressive performances for Parma’s academy team have seen the young Australian compared to a superstar of world football Paolo Maldini.
If Circati keeps on climbing the ranks, a national team call up awaits – but for which country?
He was born in Italy, but moved to Australia as a one-year-old. No indication has been given if Circati will choose the Azzurri or the Socceroos. Right now, he is fully concentrating on breaking into Parma’s first team.
Parma look likely to still be in Serie B next season. They are already several points off the promotion spots with a very strong squad, including the likes of Gianluigi Buffon getting regular playing time.
They have struggled under new coach Enzo Maresca. He is implementing a new playing style and asking players to be adaptable to formation changes, regularly switching from a back four to his now preferred wing-back system.
Alessandro Circati will need to keep on training the house down to break into the first team though. Even though Parma are playing poorly, they’re not conceding many goals.
Parma are hopeful that if Circati continues his development, he will be the long-term heir to 37-year-old Brazilian centre back Danilo.
Australian media and fans have a habit of hyping up the next annointed wunderkind each season. Ninety per cent of them never end up living up to their potential as a teenager.
With a little bit of luck and an ageing back line, Alessandro Circati has a great chance if he keeps working hard to buck the wunderkind tag and break into Parma’s fist team.